Southern Theatre

21 E. Main Street,
Columbus, OH 43215

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Related Websites

CAPA Columbus -- Southern Theatre (Official)

Additional Info

Firms: Dauben, Krumm & Riebel, Yost & Packard

Functions: Performing Arts

Previous Names: Great Southern Opera House, Towne Cinema

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News About This Theater

Southern Theatre

The Great Southern Theatre is the only remaining 19th Century theatre in Columbus. It opened on September 21, 1896 with the comedy burlesque stage production of “In Gay New York”. It took close to three years of planning and construction (the adjoining Southern Hotel opened the following summer). It boasts the architectural influence of 19th Century geniuses Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. It was constructed of “fireproof” brick, tile, iron, concrete and steel (since most other theatres in the downtown had been previously destroyed by fire). Being a very modern structure, it was one of the first commercial buildings in Columbus to have electricity (which it produced itself).

In the early-1910’s, a section of the upper balcony was removed to install a projection booth. It was used as a live performance and movie theatre until 1931 when it became a full-time movie house named Southern Theatre. It was renamed Towne Cinema on December 22, 1972 screening Blaxploitation movies, the first being Robert Hooks in “Trouble Man”. It stayed open until 1979 when years of neglect forced its closing.

The movement to restore the Ohio Theatre 30 years ago helped the Southern Theatre receive public support for its own restoration. After over a year of restoration, it reopened its doors on September 26, 1998 and now hosts a variety of performances.

Contributed by Joseph Boone, Ron Newman

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

Mark_L on October 23, 2010 at 2:13 pm

The current seating in the Southern is 925, according to the CAPA website.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on October 23, 2010 at 8:17 pm

how did it get reduced by half?

albabewick on January 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm

If you live in or visit Columbus, this theatre boasts wonderful acoustics. I have seen various types of live performance here over the last 15 years: small-scale musicals, chamber music, full orchestras, rock music and was lucky enough to have seen the Lynn Redgrave performance in “The Importance of Being Earnest” in 2006. It is also a very beautiful theatre, perhaps the most tasteful and elegant in all of Columbus. Take someone you love to hear good music in a lovely setting!

TLSLOEWS on January 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Great history of this theatre,good to see it still open.

dallasmovietheaters on January 14, 2017 at 5:10 am

Attributed architects as Yost & Packard of Dayton

MichaelWDean on July 19, 2021 at 12:36 pm

In the late 1960s/early 1970s, The Southern Theatre ran second run triple features at very low ticket prices. The triple features included features that had limited or no previous bookings in the area such as “The Invisible Dr. Mabuse,” “Dark Eyes of London” and the gore films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. I drove to Columbus many times to spend a Sunday afternoon watching a triple feature at the Southern.

rivest266 on November 10, 2021 at 9:10 am

Grand opening ad posted.

rivest266 on November 13, 2021 at 2:09 pm

This reopened as the Towne Cinema on December 22nd, 1972 showing Blaxploitation films. Grand opening ad posted.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 13, 2021 at 2:28 pm

My recollection is that the Towne name did not last very long before going back to being the Southern.

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